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Stewardship In God's Kingdom - Part 1

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    Tettei Shahday-Annang

In this article we will be taking a look at the concept of giving in terms of tithes, seed offering, freewill offering and first fruits. If you're a Christian, I believe you give in one way or the other. But do we really understand what we give? When we give without knowing what we're doing, we might end up doing it wrong. Oh, can we give wrongly? YES! We're going to learn how to be good stewards in the Kingdom of God and how to handle what God gives us properly. The subject of giving has raised a number of issues in the body of Christ today. People don't know whether it's still right to give or not. It's the Lord who gives us the ability to produce wealth: "But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth..." (Deuteronomy 8:18).

I know some people would find it difficult to believe this, especially unbelievers. On the contrary, a question may be asked: "If it's the Lord who gives us the power to make wealth, why do unbelievers seem to prosper the most?" Well, the problem is that many Christians are ignorant of what the Bible teaches about our responsibility to apply God's resources in ways that affect our lives. First, let's deal with the issue of TITHING. There are those who are confused in this area; they don't know whether we're to pay our tithes or not. They believe the time of tithing is passed and there's no need to do it today. It's also believed that tithing is no longer the law, for we are not told anywhere in the New Testament to do it; we are under no legal obligation to give a tenth of our income. But I strongly believe tithe ought to be the starting point of our giving.

Please don't get me wrong; I believe you'll know better after reading this article. When we first give a tenth of our income to God, it is a demonstration to show that everything we have belongs to Him. Jesus affirmed the need to give tithes to God (Matthew 23:23). When we tithe, we put God first in our lives. What we do first with our money determines what we value most. Giving the first part of our paycheck to God immediately focuses our attention on Him. A habit of regular tithing can keep God at the top of our priority list and give us a proper perspective on everything else we have. We can choose to let our tithes come before taxes (gross, not net) and before we pay any other bill - it's your faith that matters. Give regularly as part of your worship. When you're in Ghana for instance, and you're paid in US dollars, don't consider converting it to Ghana Cedis before giving your tithe.

Give in the currency you receive. Your attitude is what counts, not the size of your gift. A certain seaman, a Baptist, gave his testimony in our church. While at sea, he was reported to have had a stroke. He got up one morning and realized he couldn't move any part of his body. Due to his condition, preparations were made for him to be flown back to Ghana. Suddenly he was awakened to the fact that he tithed, which puts him in partnership with God. Thus he prayed, "God, I'm in partnership with you; I stand on my tithe and claim my healing now!" After prayer, he fell into a deep sleep for some minutes. While sleeping, he heard someone knock at the door. This is amazing: he got up to open the door without remembering he had a stroke. He's healed! Hallelujah!

I've realised that in times of plenty, it is easy to take credit for your prosperity and begin to feel that your own hard work and cleverness have made you rich. But it's the Lord who makes us wealthy. It is easy to get so busy collecting and managing your wealth that God is pushed right out of your life. It is God who blesses us with abundance, and it is God who asks us to manage it for him. We are stewards of the resources that God blesses us with. Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17); they belong to Him. Giving is an expression of our thankfulness and praise to God. For instance, God instructed the people of old to give a tithe (tenth) of their income (Deuteronomy 14:22-23; Leviticus 27:30) because it represented the first and most important portion of all they had.

Even if the New Testament does not state the amount we should give, let's see something. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the collection of money to help God's people in Jerusalem, he said to them: "On every Lord's Day each of you should put aside something from what you have earned during the week, and use it for this offering. The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn..." (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, TLB). The Amplified says each should give "as he has prospered in proportion to what he is given." The NIV says for each to give "in keeping with his income." We are to give according to our income. Take notice they were to do this every week. When we are willing to offer the first portion of our wealth back to God, then He knows He has our hearts; that we are submitted completely in trust and obedience to our Lord and Saviour.

In the Old Testament, the Levites lived near the tabernacle and were in charge of it. They assisted the priests but were not supposed to perform any of the sacred duties in the tabernacle itself. The tabernacle was an elaborate system of tents and portable items, designed to be carried through the desert and set up when the people encamped. Wherever they decided to pitch these sacred tents became a holy place. Aaron and his sons ministered to the Lord in the priest's office; they performed the sacred duties. These people were solely responsible for ministering to the Lord and taking care of His Sanctuary. The Lord said to Aaron, "You priests will receive no inheritance of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your inheritance and your share... The Levites will receive no inheritance of land among the Israelites because I have given them the Israelites' tithes, which have been set apart as offerings to the Lord. This will be the Levites' share" (Numbers 18:20-24, NLT).

The tithes were necessary to support the priesthood - the ordained spiritual leaders who were responsible for Israel's worship and spiritual life. We see in the New Testament that "Elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain." And in another place, "Those who work deserve their pay!" (1 Timothy 5:17-18, NLT). The need to support the spiritual leaders of the church financially has not changed from the Old to the New Testament. These people spend most of their time with the Lord to bring a Word from Him to us, and they teach and make the scriptures so simple to understand. I'm grateful to most of them especially my pastor Rev. Chris Oyakhilome, PhD. God's blessings are for a purpose.

There are those who are selfish; they figure they worked hard for their money and it's theirs to use as they please. Their priorities revolve around their personal needs and desires. We must give to further spread the gospel. Our giving supports ministers of the Word (Philippians 4:12-20; Titus 3:13-14; 3 John 5-8) and assist the poor, supporting full-time church workers and assisting the needy (Acts 11:27-30; 24:17; Romans 15:25-28; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:12). Qualified widows need to be assisted by the church (1 Timothy 5:3, 9, 16). In the Bible, when ministers of the gospel were sent out as church planters to other areas, they were supported. The Greek for "send" in the New Testament is "propempo." It means to "send forth;" "to send forthwith practical material help," "to fit someone for their journey, sending them off;" "to send fully equipped;" "to assist and help one on their way."

When ministers are sent out, they are to be given material substance (Acts 15:3; Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6, 11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13; 3 John 5-8). A Church planter is to be provided temporary lodging with his physical needs. New Testament church planters were given lump sums to get them to their destinations. They are sent to places to enable them to evangelize the area, establish churches, train the converts in the basics of Christianity and move on. Church planters have the right to earn their living from the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:1-4). When we give our tithes, the money is used to further advance the gospel by holding crusades and winning souls to the body of Christ. Part of the money is also used to take care of the needy as we discussed earlier, helping win them to Christ.

Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). As souls are being won into the Kingdom, they are credited to your account as a giver, because you made it possible. Indirectly, you become a soul winner! Part of your offering is also used to support church workers (staff, missionaries, apostles, evangelists etc.) - your labour isn't in vain. Jesus said, "The person who welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. The person who welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. I can guarantee this truth: Whoever gives any of my humble followers a cup of cold water because that person is my disciple will certainly never lose his reward" (Matthew 10:41-42, GW). Be willing to support God's work, knowing that He's your source of wealth.

Jesus didn't say give to His elderly follower. He said you can give to them - whether old or young. Jesus taught something about money in Luke 12. Someone pleaded with Jesus so he can convince his brother to give him a fair share of their family inheritance. As Jesus taught, He made the crowd aware that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15). Life is not defined by what you have. He then gave an illustration of how a rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He had a bountiful harvest, such that his barns were full to overflowing - he couldn't get everything in. He became so worried. Later, he got an idea to rebuild his barns to bigger ones so as to make enough room for his produce. After everything, he said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry" (Luke 12:19).

But God said to him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (Luke 12:20). Jesus says concerning such a man: "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). The Living Bible translates this verse: "Yes, every man is a fool who gets rich on earth but not in heaven." The Message Bible says, "That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." So how do we get rich in heaven? Like Jesus said, we shall be rewarded for whatever we give toward the advancement of His Kingdom. In heaven, there's going to be awards. Believers will be rewarded according to the work that each person has done. We are all going to be in heaven but we're not going to be in the same position; some will receive big rewards than others.

This will be determined by their contribution toward the advancement of His Kingdom. Give like prospering the Kingdom of God is your sole business - and it is! Don't forget God in your abundance. There is coming a transfer of wealth from unbelievers to believers. On the other hand, "believers" who refuse to function in the stewardship to which they have been called will lose out to the true stewards of God's resources. Just imagine how God gave us His best by sending His only begotten Son to come and die in our place to save us from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14). I love the Living Bible's translation of 2 Corinthians 9:15: "Thank God for his Son - a gift too wonderful for words!" The greatest gift God gave us was His Son. Through Jesus, He also gives us the gift of eternal life.

And "He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us" (2 Corinthians 1:22, NLT). It's this Holy Spirit who's the source of the Spiritual gifts - wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-10). I love Jesus! Thank God for such a Precious Gift! Or have we forgotten that at first we didn't qualify for this due to one man's sin? "And what a difference between man's sin and God's forgiveness! For this one man, Adam brought death to many through his sin. But this one man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's mercy. Adam's one sin brought the penalty of death to many, while Christ freely takes away many sins and gives glorious life instead.

The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to be king over all, but all who will take God's gift of forgiveness and acquittal are kings of life because of this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam's sin brought punishment to all, but Christ's righteousness makes men right with God so that they can live. Adam caused many to be sinners because he disobeyed God, and Christ caused many to be made acceptable to God because he obeyed" (Romans 5:15-19, TLB). If Christians would consider and or ponder over what Christ Jesus has made us, they wouldn't have any reason to give their best to Him. The reason is that most of them don't really know what's available to them in Christ Jesus. Jesus said Himself: "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me" (John 10:28, TLB). That eternal life Jesus brought is so HUGE! It's Zoe, the God-kind of lif.

We did nothing to earn something from God; He qualified us for Himself. God loves us so much! No wonder the Psalmist said: "God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden's dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world" (Psalm 8:1-9, MSG). Oh my God!

Remember that the most valuable thing in life - your relationship with God - is free. We could in no way buy that; He purchased us with His own blood (Acts 20:28); we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). That qualified us to be His sons and daughters. All happened when He gave His very best for us. Jesus came to give us a rich-content life beyond explanation. Give God your best! There is a work that churches all over the world have to do and it takes finances to do it. There is much to be done in the Kingdom of God. There is much to be preached. Pay your tithes in the local church where you're fed with the Word of God and nurtured spiritually. Don't give your tithe to someone because you heard him preach nicely.

It is okay to give to support a project but never make a mistake to pay your tithe elsewhere than your local church. "Your 10% is foremost and exclusively a gift to God, not to an organization, as a voluntary act of worship. The church is simply the vehicle for putting God's money into circulation" - Olga Hermans.